Rogers Arena, Vancouver, B.C. – Calgary Flames head coach Bob Hartley took the initiative as visiting team to send out his fourth line–the brawler line–for the opening face-off against the Vancouver Canucks, and within seconds of the opening drop a 10-man brawl was taking place on the ice. Vancouver also sent in their fourth line to meet the Flames. The opening face-off of Saturday’s match was taken by Calgary’s Kevin Westgarth and Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa.
The first two players to drop their gloves, Dave Jackson and Kyle Rehman, were given 5 for fighting and 10-minute misconducts, but were not kicked out of the game. All eight other players, however, did get kicked out for secondary altercations. The other four pairs involved in the brawl were Kevin Bieksa versus Ladislav Smid, Chris Butler versus Jason Garrison, Blair Jones versus Dale Weise, and Kevin Westgarth versus rookie Kellan Lain.
Notable highlights of this unusual showing of what some call “old-time hockey” during the rest of the first period included a double roughing minor and 10-minute misconduct handed to Zack Kassian and a roughing altercation involving Alex Burrows, who was back on the ice after 20 games off for a broken jaw. Burrows got into it with Lee Stempniak from the Flames. By the end of the first period the Canucks and Flames had racked up a total of 178 penalty minutes. Another feature of the first period was the sight of Canucks head coach John Tortorella shouting and gesturing at the Flames bench.
During the first intermission Tortorella attempted to enter the Flames dressing room. Tortorella was bounced from the visiting teams dressing room by the Flames Brian McGrattan, an enforcer. Tortorella has been known for red-blooded antics in the past, but had been quiet so far this season with the Vancouver Canucks.
As Tortorella was separated from McGrattan, Calgary Flames goaltender coach Clint Malarchuk pursued Tortorella, but was held back by several Flames staff and McGrattan. Much other intermission activity took place, but was not captured on camera.
The final score of the game was 3-2 Vancouver Canucks. The game was won in a shootout after a scoreless opening period and a goal each for both the Vancouver Canucks and the Calgary Flames in the second and third. The total penalty minutes for the game with the 10-man brawl was 188–95 for Vancouver.
After the game, Tortorella expressed some regret over the events of the game. Considering his decision to meet the Flames fourth line not with his regular first line (and thereby possibly deflate the aggressive gesture), Tortorella stated,
“With the lineup that he had, I’m not going to put those types of players at risk and that’s what ensued. I’m not proud of it. I’ve apologized to every one of the players involved in it. I don’t feel great about it at all.”
Flames coach Bob Hartley had this to say for his decision to put his fourth line on the opening face-off:
“Those guys are playing well for us. They got a goal last game. We’re not scoring many goals. We had zero intentions there.”
The Canucks and the Flames are historic rivals in the game of hockey, but a line brawl like this is seldom seen. A brawl right from the opening drop is even rarer. Then sending in the fourth line for an opening drop is rarer still. This 10-man opening-drop brawl in the Vancouver Canucks-Calgary Flames rivalry will not soon be forgotten.
By Day Blakely Donaldson